Photo of the Week – May 8, 2014

In my last post, I mentioned that I didn’t mind having dandelions in my prairies.  Here is a further celebration of this beautiful, tough little plant.

Dandelions - pollinator heaven.

These dandelions were blooming near our shop building earlier this week.

While dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are kind of weedy, they are not invasive – at least not in our prairies.  They essentially fill spaces left when perennial plants are either absent or weakened.  Typically, they come and go from the plant community pretty quickly, except in places (like around our shop) where frequent mowing and/or poor soil conditions prevent more competitive plants from establishing.

The dandelion’s status as a non-native plant doesn’t bother me in the least.  It is an attractive species and is great for pollinators – especially in the early part of the season when few other plants are blooming in our prairies.  Until relatively recent history, dandelions were seen as a useful and attractive garden plant around the world.  We’ve made the social decision to call it a weed, but that doesn’t change it’s ecological value.  You can read more about the history and uses of dandelions here.

Dandelions and henbit

Dandelions and henbit (another pretty and innocuous non-native flower) offer a nice counterpoint to each other, don’t they?

If you can get past the social aesthetic of dandelions as weeds and look at them as just a flower, they’re really very pretty.  Kids, who haven’t yet been pressured to label dandelions as a nuisance, can see that beauty – why can’t we?

Dandelion seeds

Dandelion seeds at the Helzer Prairie last week.